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I have a little nook about 2' x 5'. It's surrounded by wall on three sides. I want to put a table top in there. But I know the area isn't exactly square. It's supposed to be, but it's not.

How do I measure the exact dimensions w/ correct angles of the corners so that the table top fits perfectly into the space?

  • Whatever method you use to measure the space (there are several good answers), note that 1) sometimes walls are curved slightly, so check that as well, and 2) make sure to take measurements at the height where the table will be, in case the walls vary from top to bottom. – Hank Nov 1 '15 at 17:11
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One of the simpler ways to do this is with a framing square (a good tool to have on hand).

framing square

You need to measure the top at the height where the tabletop will be. Mount cleats (long strips of wood running horizontally) to hold up the top along the three walls. Cut the two side walls a bit short so the cleats do not show once the tabletop is in place.

Now it's time to measure for the top.

Start with the back wall. Measure its length and draw on a piece of paper. It doesn't need to be full size or strictly to scale. Put the corner of the framing square into each of the back corners. Choose the corner that allows you to get the square's corner into the wall corner. Measure the length of the tabletop along the side wall. Be sure you indicate the measurement at the actual point of the edge of the tabletop, not the end of the cleat, which may be shorter.

Have the 24" leg pointing outward. There will be a gap between the end of the square furthest from the back wall and the side wall at the outside edge of the planned top. Measure that gap and transfer it to your drawing.

tabletop

Flip the square and do the same thing for the other corner. But this time the end furthest from the back wall may have a similar gap to its side wall. Or it may be square. Or it may have a gap at the back wall. Whatever it is, measure the length and the gap. Transfer the measurements to the drawing.

With measurements of the back edge, the side edges and the gaps, you can lay out the exact dimensions on your tabletop material. While theoretically you do not need to measure the front edge, it couldn't hurt and it will serve as a check to indicate that your other measurements are correct. If you carefully record the measurements, the angles will take care of themselves.

If you want to be super sure, transfer the measurements to a cardboard pattern and fit into the space on the cleats. You can fine tune the pattern before cutting the final material.

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There are a lot of ways to do this, but here's one. The first thing I'd do would be to mark the walls where you want the table top to set with a pencil line or masking tape. (I'd use a level to make sure the lines are all at the same level, rather than measuring up from the floor.)

The next thing isn't too hard - measure the length of the back edge. Taking an inside measurement with a tape measure is a little sketchy. The right tool for this job is pinch rods:

measuring diagonal with pinch rods

But you can probably improvise some other method to get an accurate measurement.

The next step is to measure the angles of the back corners. You could use a bevel gauge

Bevel gauge from Amazon

to measure and replicate the inside angles at the back wall, and transfer those angles to mark your tabletop material. However a bevel gauge is too small to make a really accurate measurement of a long line like this. But it's easy to use and inexpensive, and will get you close. Just don't trust those measurements without checking them.

Before you cut, check the diagonals. If the diagonals on your marked up piece match the diagonal measurements of the space, you're on the money; if they don't, you're off. Again making an accurate inside measurement is best done with pinch rods but you can improvise something that will work.

If you want to be extra careful, you could mark up and cut out a pattern on cardboard first. With a pattern, you can check fit before you cut - get it just right, then carefully transfer the cut lines from the pattern to the material. If you're patient and / or clever, and have a lot of cardboard, you can make a pattern by trial and error without taking a single measurement.

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